8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2004
We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the action in Ulysses and I've taken my copy out and began to reread it. No other book I know of has more power to inspire or instill creative thought. His symbolism and skill is simply astounding. Anthony Burgess once said that many times he'd think of Ulysses and then think about his own work, "Why bother?" I know what he meant, but the power of the characters and style gives everday writers like myself something to strive for. This book is worth more than ten creative writing courses in the Ivy League. Even if I wanted to, I could never forget it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I bought the Ulysses (Gabler Edition) edition of this book recently as we were reading Ulysses as part of an online book club. The advantage of that edition is that it is popular edition and also has line numberings so that as part of a group you can immediately locate a piece of text.
Joyce edited and added bits and pieces to the text over the years much to the chagrin and frustration of his publishers, so you can expect minor variations between editions, yet they may be 95-99% similar.
"Ineluctable modality of the visible."
There are certain passages that no dictionary will help you with, and that is why you may need a companion book, such as Ulysses annotated, which explains the many allusions, whether to Latin, parallels with the Bible, with the Odyssey which this story loosely parallels, to Latin, British Rule, historical context, local maps, Hamlet, mythical search for the missing father, Shakespeare and the Bible.
The further you get into this book the better it gets.
At once this book is inpiring yet challenging, sometimes perplexing yet ultimately rewarding. Full of inventive wordplay that sometimes defies instant comprehension. I have read entire pages that turn out to be word salad at first. Every chapter has a different narrative style, such as inner monologue, narcissistic, catechism, stream of consciousness. Sometimes this book is brutal to read, sometimes a joy. I can understand why this book is so influential, and the words nibble at the edge of your consciousness forcing your mind to expand itself. This book has changed the way I think about writing, as I have never seen som many different narrative devices used in a single book before. The final chapter with Molly Bloom in bed, with its runon sentences is simply hilarious.
And if you search you can find free online chapter summaries of chapters to speed your comprehension.
I hope you found this review helpful.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2004
I wrote this review previously w/ my other Amazon account but now that I changed email addresses, I'm going to publish this review in this account
Ulysses is considered by me to be the greatest book ever written. Now the following review is just the very basic storyline, in order to even begin to fathom the magnitude of it's magnificence, you need to read the other reviews and so here it is. It describes in florid detail a single day in the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and Stephen Dedalus, a young would-be-writer -- a character based on Joyce himself. Bloom, a Jewish advertising salesman, spends the day wandering through the streets and offices, pubs and brothels of 1904 Dublin
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2004
This is certainly one of the most important audiobook performances available. Whether you have already read this masterpiece or you are beginning to study it, you will gain immeasurably from these narrators' idiomatic diction and narrative fluency. They bring the book alive and impart a level of clarity and coherent understanding that offsets the reader's tendency to get bogged down in details. No matter where you are coming from in relation to Ulysses, this reading will dramatically increase your appreciation for it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2006
If you’re looking for a modern page-turner, a la “Da Vinci Code” by Brown or “Katzenjammer” by J. McCrae, then look someplace else. This is NOT it. ULYSSES is a classic in the same way that Proust’s work is, but easy to read? Don’t think so. It is worth your time trying to get through this tome, the same way it is with “Atlas Shrugged” or other classics that take a bit of getting used to. Most readers probably won't be able to approach this famous novel without some outside aid, but don't let that deter you. I've read parts of it many times and still haven't any idea what the central theme is supposed to be, yet it remains a fascinating work. The book is less about plot and character as it is about the creative use of language - stream-of-consciousness, changing narrators, parodies and other rhetorical devices are some of the techniques Joyce uses to the fullest. This is one of those rare books that can be read over and over and something new understood each time. For that alone, I recommend this to curious readers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2003
Brilliant book, a web of words encompassing centuries of literature and philosophy and its impasse on the overeducated lower middle class, a perfect allusion to a work of great literature (The Odyssey) that this book has matched well. Perhaps this is the first book to transcend the ability of what it has parodied. To those who have denied recommending it to someone of sixteen or seventeen, I had been upon this earth for a decade and a half when I came upon it, and just reread it one year later. Granted, you need a Latin dictionary and a good book of annotations to thoroughly understand it, but this book has made me realize just what a waste my public rural high school education was--Ulysses is literary heaven and hell and propagator of autodidacticism and eschews all principles of what has ever been said to create this century's magnum opus. I am exactly one-hundred years younger than James Joyce (and Stephen Daedalus), and on the sixteenth of June in 2004 I plan to! take the route of Leopold Bloom to vicariously relive it. One thing to be forewarned about: it is highly addictive. I have developed Ulysses codependency, as will anyone who gets through it. My head aches after reading it, for it is the best kind of masterpiece, the kind that attacks physically and intellectually at once. It is vulgar, carnal, and base (for its time, that is) and at once completely holy and pure because it has allowed the world to start over. Joyce is the avant-garde. He is our master philosopher and psychiatrist, who wrote the book that will never be shredded.
on September 5, 2012
'Ulysses' is surrounded as much by controversy as brilliance. In his masterwork, Joyce moulds his theories on narrative, humanity, and philosophy into a complex view of Dublin at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It is a great book mired by difficulty. Many readers avoid 'Ulysses' because of its difficulty, which is unfortunate because these intricacies are highlights. Joyce ambitiously portrays the psychological worlds of his characters as they go about their day. That's what 'Ulysses' is: one long day that parallels Homer's 'Odyssey'.
My favourite part of this book was its impact on narratology. Joyce's core style has a third person omniscient narrator, but also slips into the subjectivity of characters through interior monologues. This was a huge moment for literature, because it shows a shift from the description of thought to thought itself. It gives the reader direct access to the characters. Joyce's movement between his heroes' thoughts and their exterior world illustrates how they relate to it. By choosing this kind of narrative, Joyce can demonstrate the ironies and multiple perspectives that surround Leopold Bloom's actions in the book. The primary feature of this book is parallax.
However, Joyce's revolutionary approach to writing also cripples it. Stephen Dedalus's dense monologues aside, Joyce simply does TOO MUCH. 'Ulysses' suffers in its final half from constant changes to the narrative. After the tenth episode, Joyce uses a new style each episode. So extreme is his ambition that he metaphorically "gives birth" to the English language in episode fourteen, "Oxen of the Sun." (My review's title uses the last sentence of that chapter.) I understand that Joyce uses different writing styles to present the effect they have on the text, but to what result? Some critics believe that Joyce's product justifies his method. While I respect this view, I also believe that literature requires clarity, which Joyce sacrifices for his boundless artistry.
As a book that celebrates the common man, 'Ulysses' operates on the irony that the status quo cannot understand all its treasures. I suspect this is part of Joyce's quirky sense of humour, and actually makes sense if you consider that irony. Despite the book's reputation, I recommend people to "try it on," and see what they take away. It is a heart-warming story, and very funny too, especially when Bloom and Stephen enter the brothel near the climax. Read 'Ulysses' for a laugh at what you know, and what you don't. If you enjoy it that much, then by all means study it to your heart's content.
on August 13, 2011
Last month saw an article in the Guardian regarding some comments made by Gabriel Josipovici, former professor of comparative literature at Oxford University. The thrust of his argument was that the works of the current batch of lauded English novelists are the hollow works of 'prep-school boys showing off'. To quote him in full he said "Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation -- Martin Amis, McEwan -- leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner. The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to seem like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world'.
Josipovici argues that Lawrence Sterne is still far more avant garde than the current self-proclaimed avant garde are. 'An author like Salman Rushdie takes from Sterne all the tricks without recognising the darkness underneath. You feel Rushdie's just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration'. For all the knowledge of technique they produce books that follow established plot-lines and in the end leave us unaffected because at heart they really have nothing to say.
You can choose whether to agree with Josipovici and it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that he has a book coming out and so would profit from some timely but controversial words however I will say that there is nothing around now that can challenge Joyce for his ingenuity or inventiveness. Take David Mitchell's much lauded 'Cloud Atlas' for instance, for all his quoting of Nietzsche, his episodic structure and his thin and ultimately trivial connections between the unconnected he cannot offer up the dish of intertextuality or inventiveness of the narrative form that takes place in Ulysses.
Joyce too was frustrated with the state of literature in Ireland at the time he wrote, so much so that it drove him to continental Europe, to Paris and Trieste. He left a country, the servant of two masters (England its colonial master and Italy, its spiritual master), a country trying to muster up some semblance of national pride with a rebirth of Celtic ideals; Joyce also saw the dangers of the new nationalism inspired by people like Yeats and Synge and these ideas are parodied throughout Ulysses.
It is interesting to note that in last years batch of books longlisted for the booker prize that there is no place for Amis or McEwan or Rushdie so perhaps Josipovici is correct but I will also bet you that within the Booker's dozen there will be no author who breaks ground like Joyce did and I think we are all the worse off for it.
on December 4, 2005
Ulysses is a novel that is beautifully written, probably the best I have ever read. After carefully reading Finnigan's Wake, there was much that I didn't quite understand. There were many words in this book that I couldn't understand, and therefore couldn't understand the story. However, in Ulysses, I found the writing to be absolutely amazing in terms of prose. Although there were times of misunderstanding the words, because of Irish slang and language, I was still able to understand the plot and idea of the book. Although originally a very lengthy book, only reading a little bit of this book has painted a beautiful picture of what the rest of the book is like indeed. As well, reading this book definitely creates word painting, which is definitely a sign of a good writing.
There is much use of alliteration in his writing that makes it more effective, more poetic. I haven't come across authors such as Joyce in a long while. Not until my university English class that discusses authors that I am happy to study.
The way Joyce describes in the book is absolutely amazing. "Hypnotised, listening. Eyes like that. She bent." His way of describing struck me as poetry, especially this passage in The Sirens. Reading poetry in prose I find is the most effective way of writing, which I'm starting to use in my own writing. I find that you don't see that enough in description. To actually see the poetic beauty behind description is really great.
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
on July 23, 2004
The introduction of this book is wonderful, it helped me understand, not only the book itself, but also Joyce's state of mind while writting it. The book itself is one of the most amazing literary achievments, but if you haven't read any Joyce before, I suggest you read A Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man first to get a feal for the style and Joyce's writting. This a very long book (933 pages-the introduction is around 50) but I can almost gaurentee you will find something you absolutley love in the book unless you didn't understand it at all. Well if you do finishing reading this and want more of the same style of book, try to read Gravity's rainbow, but take a pen and paper so you can take notes on the more then 400 characters so you'll remember them near the end of the book, and also try to pay attention to who is narrating because of the constant and occasionally abrupt changes from character to character. Well anyway I hope you find this reviews helpful. And if you read this book for nothing else, read it for the sake of saying you've read it You won't regret it.